“The sacraments join material and spiritual together into a seamless whole, just as the incarnation does. They are windows that allow us to gaze into another world and receive the grace that pours from that world into ours.” (Sittser 144)
The Protestant Church has two sacraments- baptism and communion. The Catholic Church has seven. Regardless of how many sacraments a particular religious denomination adheres to, it is clear that Christianity is a sacramental religion.
The sacraments are windows into the spiritual world. They remind us that there is more going on than meets in the eye. They push us toward considering how God is present in the everyday moments of our lives.
Historically, the church has used it’s architecture as a tangible expression of God in the world. This chapter began with an overview of the Gothic architecture that emerged in middle ages. “Gothic churches were intended to represent in earthly form an image of heaven.” (Sittser 141).
During this time period, it was not the sermons or the worship that were meant to be the primary way that people encountered God. Instead, it was the building and the sacraments that provided the means of grace to the people. “The cathedral…provided the place and the sacraments the means by which God blessed his people with grace.” (Sittser 143)
This was a very different time period from today. We may feel that it is strange for worship to focus so much on the setting and the sacraments rather than the scriptures and the songs. However, we can still claim our Reformed understanding of worship while appreciating the passion that the church of the middle ages put upon the sacraments.
Jerry Sittser summarized it well toward the end of the chapter. “I am acquainted well enough with people at our church to know something about their stories. I think about those stories when I see people standing in line to receive the Eucharist. I know of strained marriages, wayward children, failed businesses, mental anguish, habits of indulgence, doubts and anger, and monumental failures. Every person brings his or her own story to the sacrament and finds grace to keep believing, hoping and enduring for another week because in the end the Christian faith concerns what God has done- and continues to do- for us and in us, not what we do for God.” (Sittser 161).
May the sacraments of baptism and communion continue to be a reminder of the incarnational God whom we worship- a God who is tangibly with us through the ups and downs of life.